Garage Sales in Oaxaca

Rare garage sale finds (Starkman collection)

Venta de Garaje or Bazar (Bazaar), they mean the same, a garage sale. But otherwise, what you’ll find is quite different than the garage-saling to which many of us have become accustomed over the past quarter century or so in the US and Canada. The only commonality with Oaxaca is the existence of the odd perpetual garage sale just as we find in some rural communities north of the border…and for the same reason, economic necessity.

But the same financial constraints constitute the reason why such sales are few and far between. Upon the unlikely event of happening upon “one person’s garbage”, the likelihood of encountering your “treasure” is slim to say the least. In fact, this northern GS junkie has yet to make a single purchase, after two years of permanent residency in and a dozen prior years as a frequent flyer to the tierra de Toledo. I’ve simply had to find other ways to occupy my Saturday and Sunday free time, to the glee of my “you’re gonna bring that into our house?” wife.

Here in Oaxaca not a day goes by that I do not lament that the thrill is gone. It’s the 20% factor. In and about Toronto rarely would it be necessary to pay more than 20% of a new product’s market value at the conclusion of negotiating for a GS item purchase. In Oaxaca, one rarely ever encounters a true bargain, and worse yet the 20% factor means that generally, ticketed prices at such sales are about only a 20% discount off retail.

I recently attended such a sale, encountering a lovely baby stroller. As is happened, at the time a young couple was staying at our B & B, and she was pregnant…very much so. I thought wouldn’t it be a nice gesture to buy them a toddler transporter, and even if they already had one, it would be a welcome spare. It’s the kind of thinking process we GSers go through weekend after weekend during the season, making us feel good about ourselves in being able to bring joy into the lives of unsuspecting friends and relatives. “How nice of you to think of me; you really didn’t have to; let me pay you for it”…until we invariably confess to the details of the acquisition and with the greatest of pride note our bargaining prowess. But poor Amy and Ed, our proud pareja presently with child. Damned if I was going to spend 1900 pesos for a used stroller…not even a Peg Perego would have whet my appetite at that price.

Given that Oaxaca is close to the bottom rung in the country’s economic birth order, it is understandable why the phenomenon as we know it is non-existent. GS-able chattels get passed on within and between generations through both kinship and fictive kinship (compadrazgo). Otherwise, scarce resources demand resale only marginally below market value for new…for the purchaser it’s still better than going out and buying in the store. This therefore is a mindset foreign to us. Such sales are thus more akin to Salvation Army or other retail outlets for gently used items. However, contrasted with what we are generally accustomed to see or perceive in the course of attending tourist sites in the Oaxaca environs, on town and village market days one frequently encounters used chattels for sale as an adjunct to a particular stall or in an area so designated (i.e. clothing around a square in the interior of the Sunday Tlacolula market). Thus, there are alternate outlets and means by which to turn unwanted chattels into either cash or a favor to be returned in the future.

Culturally, the middle-to-lowerish class now-acceptable Northern past-time of buying clothing, cutlery, components or crafts that someone else no longer deems useful has not caught on. It’s still a little too close to mingling with the masses, or worse yet a fear that someone might see and wonder or gossip…snobbery if you will. Just walk by Terra Nova in the Zócalo on a warm weekend night and you’ll see what I mean…but if you see me there, it’s only part of a sociological study.

Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( ) ©

The Starkman’s Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( ) combines the best of bed & breakfast Oaxaca (quaintness and personal touch) with the comfort and service found in the best downtown Oaxaca hotels. The Casa Machaya Oaxaca accommodations have the added advantage of co-owner, Alvin, a Oaxaca destinations expert for a major international travel website, who provides Oaxaca tours to both house guests and those lodging elsewhere, both in downtown Oaxaca and in the surburbs.